NFPC seeks damages for rice germ plasma

Kochi: The National Farmers Protection Committee (NFPC) has urged the central government to put up a claim for compensation for the 15,000 rice germ plasma that were allegedly taken away from India through International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), in the light of claims for payment of royalty for use of genetic resources.

NFPC chairman K Ravikumar says IRRI was established by Rockefeller and Ford foundations to enhance the American dominance in rice research and business system. Sustainable development and intellectual property rights on agriculture are incompatible. The US court of appeal has blocked a Mississippi farmer from holding back harvested soyabeans crop that can be used as seed in the next season.

Monsanto Corp took him to court for breaching the technology agreement signed with it, stipulating that farmers who buy the round-up ready soyabean seeds from Monsanto should not hold back the harvested plant to be used as seeds in the next season. The court ruled: The restriction on the technology agreement was within the scope of the patent grant, for the patents cover the seeds as well as the plants.

The natural extension of such a logic will be to go in for terminator seeds that do not germinate the second time. India is a voluntary signatory to the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants Convention (UPOV).

The Act recognises and ensures the intellectual property rights of the breeder of a new plant variety and prescribes that any national legislation must be within reasonable limits safeguarding the legitimate interests of the breeder. The US court has defined the legitimate interest of the breeder to mean compensation or remuneration to the breeder for the use of farm-saved seeds.

The implication is that the farmer will have to keep buying his seeds from Monsanto every year instead of propagating the seeds himself. This goes against the freedom of the farmer to produce his own seeds and will make the farming sector totally dependent on the agri-business companies, says Ravikumar.

He says the worst part of UPOV was that in the case of a crop failure owing to basic deficiency in the seeds, the convention does not automatically hold the breeder responsible. The BT cotton in India, according to reports, has been a disaster. While the crop escaped ball worms, it attracted other pests that destroyed the crop up to 100 per cent, according to a study conducted by Mihir Shan and Derasuis Banerji.

The statement said the developed countries are better equipped to research and evolve new plant varieties. It is going to be their monopoly. The developing countries should oppose the IPR regime in the agriculture sector, says Ravikumar.